The Health Care Decisions Act (2019) addresses the problem that healthcare providers and families face when a patient is too ill to communicate their treatment preferences. The introduction of ‘Advance Health Care Directives’ by this Law, commonly known as “living wills”, provides a legal framework to express your wishes regarding medical treatment while you are mentally competent, which should be followed by your physician.
The Advance Health Care Directive is a document which sets out in writing which life-sustaining measures you would want to be applied to you under different circumstances, including a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order and the refusal of life support if you are in a vegetative state.
It is also possible to appoint one or more people as proxies to make medical decisions for you should you become mentally incapable. To be legally appointed as a proxy, you must be an adult and satisfy certain principles such as being mentally competent. Should the proxy holder die or renounce their duty, and the patient is mentally incompetent, the patient’s doctor automatically becomes the decision maker. It is highly recommended that you consult a lawyer to guide you through this process given the potentially serious implications involved for your health and wellbeing.
The Health Care Decisions Act (2019) prohibits physician assisted suicide. The Heath Care Decisions Law (2019) does not affect those who were in palliative care prior to the introduction of this law or the right of a person to receive palliative care.
The Human Tissue Transplant Act (2013) and the Human Tissue and Transplant Regulations (2018) came into effect in 2018, and healthcare providers had hoped to start performing transplants in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Law allows adults (18+) to register as organ donors. Persons under 18 years of age need parental consent to register and can only donate regenerative tissue (e.g. bone marrow). This Law excludes the donation of fetal tissue, sperm or ova and prohibits the trading of human body parts. If you have not registered as a donor prior to your death your organs/tissues cannot be donated once you are deceased.
In addition, a Human Tissue Transplant Council has been established to monitor compliance with the Law, and oversee the new donor registry. The Registry has the potential to connect Cayman with the overseas organ donation network, whereby patients gain priority on other international registries.